Is it the Right Time to Right-Source?

A discussion of when’s a good time to look for outside IT help and when is a good time to build up your own capacity.

There are times to keep services in house, and there are times to look to third parties to help out. This has always been the way, but now it’s given a new term – rightsourcing.

There is no one textbook way to decide whether third party help would work for a given circumstance in your company or organization, especially when it comes to Managed Security Service Providers (MSSPs). Both in-house and MSSP IT support models have merits and advantages, and each organization will weigh those factors differently. The answer for each unique organization will depend on various factors.But here are some things to consider:

(First, full disclosure: I have feet in both worlds. I’m a senior leader for a large corporation, and I’m also the owner of an MSSP.)

What are the main factors that will influence the decision?

I’d say the size of the organization is the big one.

For many small- and medium-sized businesses, partnering with a reputable MSSP will be the way to go. It will help them get generalist IT support when they need it, while allowing them to focus their energy and resources on their core business. It’s usually not reasonable – or even a good use of time – for a small business focusing on growth to spend the time and resources it takes to recruit, hire, and sustain a dedicated person to fill their IT needs.

A larger, more established organization with steady cash flow may decide that a dedicated in-house IT person or team would provide better strategic support, improve support ticket response times, or improve internal client satisfaction. Of course, because the size of businesses change, the answer to the MSSP vs In-House IT question also may change over time.

Is there a clear tipping point for shifting from an MSSP to an in-house team?

Not really. Sometimes it’s obvious, like when an MSSP consistently fails to meet contractual performance standards. Usually, though, there’s a more gradual arc to the MSSP/client relationship. In fact, I think there’s often value in a shift to a hybrid support model.

If your MSSP is really acting as your partner, they should be supporting the growth of your business and be prepared to support the development of in-house capability. In the initial stages, that might look like one or two company hires working along with the MSSP team and learning the ropes. Eventually, the model might evolve into an internal IT team providing Tier 1 support, with the MSSP handling anything that needs escalation. Conversely, a model could be developed where the MSSP team took on Tier 1 support, leaving the more complex matters for the internal IT team to handle.

The company’s leadership will need to do its due diligence and perform its cost/benefit analyses to make these decisions. But from my perspective, a key point is that an MSSP acting like a true partner will adapt to and support client growth, and even help its client identify the right time to start developing in-house IT capability.

What are some of the advantages and disadvantages of an in-house IT team?

Developing internal IT capability is a bigger undertaking than many realize. Developing an organization’s IT capability also means enhancing its capabilities in other areas. For example, the HR department will need to develop the knowledge needed to recruit, hire, and most importantly retain capable IT staff. The purchasing department will need to buy the right equipment. Building Services may need to set up specialized rooms to house that equipment. My point is that it’s a big commitment and a big undertaking, so a company must go into it with eyes wide open.

Having said that, there are advantages. An in-house IT team should be able to develop a more strategic understanding of the company’s core business and tailor its efforts to help drive the business forward. Team members should be more invested in the company’s success and supportive of its mission.

Do you have any advice for companies trying to make this decision?

Let an honest and pragmatic evaluation of your IT needs determine your approach. MSSPs can be a valuable resource because they allow a company to focus its attention and resources on its core business during its period of initial growth. If you take your time and choose an MSSP that will act as a real partner for your business, they won’t be afraid to help you develop in-house capability when the time comes. At the end of the day customer service is about people and relationships. Businesses evolve, people evolve, relationships evolve… whatever decision is made, all parties need to be committed to evolving and adjusting over time.

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